The term iGent—short for internet gentleman—is used to describe people who discuss tailored clothing on the internet and/or post photos of themselves in tailored clothing on the internet. The word is usually used in a derogatory manner, though I am not using it as such since it describes me perfectly. Some of these iGents dress more fashionably, such as wearing too-tight suits without socks (the #menswear crowd), while others believe in following a strict set of rules on how to dress based on a certain idea of the golden age of menswear. This series of articles will focus on the latter of these so-called iGents and their rules. While there is nothing wrong with following these rules, James Bond does not adhere to all of them and some of these rules were never even part of James Bond’s 1960s-to-present English culture.
The iGent rules I am referring to are based on 1930s and 1940s Anglo-American menswear fashions and conventions. Alan Flusser, who is a great menswear historian, bases much of what he writes on these conventions and is an inspiration for iGents. Most of these conventions are still relevant for dressing in tailored clothes. They’re a great place to start, but they don’t need to be strictly followed as some were never followed by even the best-dressed men of the 20th century. Many rules presented by Flusser or by online style experts are more limited than or are not entirely representative of the style conventions of the past, as Bond’s differences with them demonstrate.
Dressing well is about following certain rules, considering historical and contemporary conventions and having good taste. iGents may state conventions and certain tastes as rules of dressing well, but there are many different ways one can dress and still dress well that iGents don’t consider because they might believe there is only one way to dress well or they may have specific tastes that disagree with other schools of thought. I myself may not be as open as I should be to styles I don’t like, but part of that is human nature.
Rules of how to dress well exist for a reason, but iGents often take rules too far. Rules exist for a reason. Following a rule may mean adhering to a dress code as a way to maintain order in society. Acting appropriately in society is generally a gentlemanly thing to do, though breaking a rule of how to dress can be a method of protesting society, if that is the goal. Other rules are more about appreciating our clothes, such as buttoning a suit jacket the way it is cut to be buttoned. Rules make it easier to dress well. Breaking a rule would be a faux pas. But not everything that people say about how to dress is a rule. Sometimes people will state conventions, customs and personal tastes as rules.
A convention is like rule but is more of a custom or a guideline that doesn’t need to be followed as strictly as a rule. Not following a convention isn’t a faux pas. Bond follows the British convention or custom of wearing black shoes with his blue and grey suits, though dark brown shoes may also be acceptable with these suits. Bond also follows the convention of wearing white or light-coloured shirts with his suits as they nicely complement most suits and help draw attention to the face, but it’s possible for someone to wear an unconventional dark shirt with a suit if they can prevent the shirt from clashing with the suit. That involves a sophisticated level of taste. Knowing conventions and the historical reasons for them can help us dress better and provide a reliable starting place for dressing well, but breaking away from conventions is a way add individuality.
Taste is more personal and is about how we apply various stylistic customs and how we balancing styles, patterns and colours. Bond shows good taste by wearing shirt collars that flatter his face, by making his ties with knots that balance his shirt collars and by not combining many busy patterns, amongst many other things. The literary Bond’s dislike of Windsor knots is a personal taste. An oversized, loosely tied Windsor knot is often considered to lack taste, but a moderately sized Windsor knot still can be tasteful to many, even if Bond still doesn’t like it. My own tastes have been influenced by James Bond, though being an American I was first introduced to clothing through my American father’s preppy tastes, which have a few differences from Bond’s.
I present many of the rules and conventions of dressing well on this blog through how James Bond follows these rules or breaks these rules, even though he may have been following conservative conventions of his time that many iGents are unaware of. I also present the conventions that Bond follows and his tastes as a British gentlemen, though I don’t always acknowledge that there are other tasteful ways to dress if they aren’t relevant to James Bond.
As much as I hate to admit it, conventions in fashion change all the time. ‘Classic style’, whether it refers to James Bond or Cary Grant, is timeless in that it may always look good, but no style can be completely devoid of the trends of a specific era. I do my best to judge clothes based on how they reflect their times, how they suit the person wearing them, and how balanced the design is. While dressing well is open to much interpretation and varies by culture and generation, I do my best to explore the menswear styles of the past hundred years and relate them to how Bond wears his clothes. And I use my eye for design to evaluate the clothes on their own terms. Though colour schemes change with trends, a colour scheme that may look outdated can still look balanced and can still flatter the person wearing it. While the idea of a good fit has changed with trends that have promoted fuller or closer fits, clean lines have always been the mark of a good fit and serve as the highest standard for a good fit. Some things about menswear never change.
The formal clothes of the past eighty years (the essentials of menswear haven’t changed in this time) started out as less formal clothes, and often as sporty clothes. The morning coat is now the most formal garment that people wear in the daytime and has been for almost a century since the frock coat fell out of fashion, but it was originally developed for horseback riding. The lounge suit is by far the most formal garment that many people wear today for life’s most special occasions, but it was formerly an everyday garment that started out as casual clothing. We still see less formal clothing become more formal, with white tie almost extinct and black tie taking the more exclusive place that white tie held. Jeans are no longer just workwear but are accepted for many dressier occasions today.
One thing that James Bond and iGents have in common is that they both hold on to the more formal ways that people more commonly dressed in an earlier era. In the 1960s through the 1990s, Bond’s look was that of the businessman in a suit and tie, albeit one with more sophisticated tastes than the average businessman. But today Bond still maintains his suited image, though now he doesn’t blend in with a crowd as well as he used to. Bond seems overdressed in a suit and tie in Spectre’s pre-title sequence. But Bond also holds himself to higher standards and isn’t going to dress like the average Joe. Though Craig’s Bond has more in common with regular people than previous Bonds have, he dresses in a fancier and more formal way than most people do to set him apart. iGents agree with this aspect of the modern Bond as he relates to the world.
Bond always dresses in contemporary styles with one foot in the past, while the iGent may keep both feet in the past. Bond pays homage to the past and remembers the rules and conventions the character has always followed, but he never looks like he’s wearing historic costume. There’s always something in his clothes that is updated to reflect contemporary trends, whether it be 1970s flared trousers with Roger Moore’s otherwise 1930s-esque dinner jackets or a 2010s shrunken fit on Daniel Craig’s otherwise 1960s-styled outfits. It’s a way that Bond always looks classic and classy yet hip.
Part two of this series will look at how Bond dresses in relation to iGent rules conventions and how he dresses in ways that follow the conventions of post World War II British style that iGents often disagree with.